Why not burn the dead?

So here is a world-building question to consider. In a world where undead are an accepted fact, why would people refrain from cremating their dead? Why not burn the dead down to ashes, mix those ashes with real divinely infused holy water, make bricks, and have memorial shrines that were impervious to undead energies? Then the only corpses and ghosts available would be people who died outside the cultural system. Even then, it could be a cultural expectation to try to “brick up” the corpses of the dead.

One of the main influences that I am aware of that caused Europeans to preserve corpses was a reading of Revelations in the Bible that suggests that when the trump sounds, people’s spirits will flow back into their bodies (and those bodies will be made whole.) But if you have no body, what then?

In Egypt, your body was prepared for your use in the afterlife, all tidied up and sorted and put among everything else you’d need.

What other reasons might you have to leave your dead laying around to serve as footsoldiers in the next necromatic assault?


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6 Responses to Why not burn the dead?

  1. That’s a good question. You can still have non-corporeal undead like ghosts even if the corpse is destroyed. Perhaps there is an effective holy ritual which prevents (or is believed to prevent) them from becoming undead.

  2. Jeff says:

    Because Ash Ghosts and Mausoleum Transformers are TERRIFYING.

  3. fictivite says:

    Yeah, I mean, what if the necromancers defiled the holy site? Then all that divine protection was torn off. And that’s bad.

    So how would YOU keep the dead from coming back? How would peasants and slum dwellers keep them from returning?


  4. Tim D. says:

    Many religions (especially ancient ones) believed like the Egyptians that you needed a body for getting around in the afterworld. In addition, if you were in an area devoid of wood, burning your dead just isn’t an option.

    Although if you really thought the dead were going to come back and get you, maybe you sent your dead away to someplace designed to handle this. Some place with a blast furnace, so that you can get rid of bodies very quickly and fuel-efficient. Or slaves dug very deep pits and filled them with corpses, knowing simple undead couldn’t get out. Maybe the bones get removed after exposure of a very long period of time and then smashed to bits. I’d imagine you could base much of the economy around ensuring the dead stay dead. Egypt’s ancient economy seemed very focused on death and the afterlife.

  5. So I tried to post a comment on this last week and seems the website ate my response.

    My thought to this is the only restriction would be resources. Time and effort and materials might restrict this. Digging a hole in the ground is a lot faster and materially cheaper.

    Magic is going to be the balancing factor. On one side mages could reduce the body to ash or priests/druids/shaman could summon animals or insects to reduce the body to bones which could be powdered.

    The other side of that equation would be to focus necromancy to draw out the death energy from the remains and use that to animate something. I love the idea of the ash wraiths that fictive pointed out. I was thinking of something similar. That or they could store the energies and put it in fresh corpses or other constructs to make them work. The solution to the problem would be for society to either find a productive use for necromancer or hunt them down as a threat to civilization.

    This makes a very good case for the Witch Hunter/Purifier/Inquisition class.

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